Have you been training the same way for years without getting the desired results? Maybe you started off with a bang, but the results have stagnated and you’re now just going through the motions week in week out with little thought to exercise selection. These are very common scenarios that will sound familiar to many.
So what would a solution be to ramp back up the effectiveness of your workouts? One solution would be to strictly structure your workouts in advance, which has its merits but also its drawbacks. Benefits would be being able to measure your progress week in week out, following the progressive overload principle and adding more reps and weight over time.
Sounds great in theory but is not always so simple, eg variables such as lifestyle, diet, work commitments, family, etc means some days we’re going to be ready to give an all out effort. E.g. you had a good night sleep, work was stress free that day, you ate well and feel ready to go, you get to the gym & its empty so no waiting for machines . But, what about those days when you’ve slept like crap, had little more than a coffee & the odd snack due to a crazy day at work, the kids are home sick from school, stress levels are through the roof & to top it all off the gym is packed and all the machines you had planned to use seem to be the most popular that day.
Days like those we could be excused for not being in all star form, but the strict program insists we get through a heavy leg workout. If we recorded the results that day they would be ordinary at best, and the session would take forever due to having to wait for the machines/bench/floor space we require etc . so do you just flog a dead horse and hope for the best? Many do and bless their commitment, but maybe there’s another way...........
Let’s have a look from a totally different unstructured angle here, now let’s say you know your stuff, you know what works for you and what doesn’t and have the discipline to get in and do your best week in week out. Let’s say its back day today, old thinking says get 4 or 5 back exercises & do them in no real particular order or design except that,” its back day so I’m doing a bunch of back exercises”.
Sure that’s how a workout goes, pick the body part you want to train and exercises that work that part. Now considering there is no such thing as a wasted workout, there is nothing wrong with randomly selecting exercises that train the desired body part as long as you are making the effort for it to count. But, if you’re anything like me you want to get the most of your time at the gym and not just go through the motions so you can tell your mates you’ve done it.
A more effective way would be to pick your biggest and best bang for your buck exercise to start with. It’s back day and the one you really have a go at and get good results from are deadlifts. Thats the one I’d pick for my main exercise and then let the workout flow intuitively from that exercise. A deadlift is a compound movement that works many body parts, primarily targeting the lower back, but other parts get taxed from this exercise too such as the glutes, quads & hamstrings, lats, all those upper back muscles and traps.
Using the pre exhausting principle, the lats would be a logical next choice to hit as the fatigue from the deadlifts means they will have to work harder when isolated, more bang for your buck right there!
So, we’ve hit the deadlifts, the lats have a nice pump but you want to really set them on fire. A great choice would be a lat pulldown variation, so not only do we have an exercise that has flowed on from the last, but we have two opposite pulling techniques, pulling a deadlift up from the floor and pulling a lat pulldown from the roof.
Now, if the pulldown variation was a close grip, the rhomboids will also be used a lot for this exercise, so a logical next choice would be a rowing variation to finish those rhomboids off properly. A close grip cable row, the nautilus compound row, (this one also annihilates the lats - again the poor buggers!). Alternatively, one of the other cable row machines would all work fine. Now we also have another pulling variation, this one being a horizontal pull. If one machine is occupied at that time we have a choice and each will be fine for the desired effect.
Now we’ve hit the lower back, lats and rhomboids, continuing our way up the back and following our flow on principle the next logical choice would be a rear delt exercise as they get a solid workout from the cable row variations. Dumbell rear delt raises or reverse flies on the chest fly machine would be great options.
Now we’ve covered the whole back effectively, doubling up on each muscle group from the pre exhausting principle, covering various pulling directions, all making for a very enjoyable and effective workout. One other exercise we could use as a finisher or even exchange for the lat pulldown variation, would be chin ups(assisted if required) Chin ups are a great finisher as they hit the whole upper back and lats but are probably better for some people to attempt earlier in the workout as fatigue can make them very difficult.
So in that case i would exchange the lat pulldown, and again the added benefit of a new pulling plane being pulling from down to up so if used as a finisher we have covered every pulling plane there is for back.
So there we have it, give it a try sometime and see how it works for you. This system can be used for all body parts, feel free to ask me any questions you may have anytime you see me around the gym. I love the sound of my own voice so don’t be afraid to ask, I’m only too happy to help J